Reporters’ notebook: Brock Bowers to Raiders on a coin flip?

Las Vegas Raiders first round draft pick Brock Bowers speaks at an NFL football news conference Friday, April 26, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Las Vegas Raiders first round draft pick Brock Bowers speaks at an NFL football news conference Friday, April 26, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find it informative, insightful and fun.

Brock Bowers by a coin flip

Former Georgia All-American tight end Brock Bowers is a Las Vegas Raider. Apparently, there was a 50-50 shot he wasn’t.

Terrion Arnold, the former Alabama cornerback who the Lions drafted 24th overall, made headlines when he told The Next Round podcast that Raiders coach Antonio Pierce said the team flipped a coin to decide between him and Bowers at No. 13.

“There was a possibility that they took me,” Arnold said. “And, actually, the Raiders coach, they called me after the draft, they were like, ‘We actually had a coin toss between you and Brock Bowers. It landed on him.’”

It would be reasonable to read Pierce’s comment figuratively. Asked about the coin flip, Raiders assistant general manager Champ Kelly said: “I can’t confirm that at all.” Not exactly a strong denial.

Either way, Bowers is with the Raiders. And he’ll team with longtime receiver standout Davante Adams and fellow tight end Michael Mayer to try to make his team’s quarterback situation – Aidan O’Connell versus Gardner Minshew – sufficient.

Jarred Kelenic finally homers

Jarred Kelenic’s locker in the Braves’ Truist Park clubhouse displayed a long-awaited prize.

It was the ball that he hit for his first home run as a Brave, in the team’s 4-2 home win over the Red Sox on Tuesday. The left fielder hit it in his 80th plate appearance of the season. Kelenic’s wait for a home run was even longer than that. With the Mariners last season, he failed to homer in the final 182 plate appearances of the season. That’s a long time for a player who, going into the Braves’ weekend series against the Mets, had averaged one home run for every 32 plate appearances in his four-year career.

“First homer in a long time,” Kelenic said Wednesday. “It’s about time. It felt good. Just getting that monkey off my back, yeah, it felt great.”

The team retrieved the ball for Kelenic, which Wednesday was encased in a clear display box in his locker. It came at a price – two autographed bats to the fan who snared the ball in the right field stands. Kelenic’s assessment of the blast suggested more could be coming at Truist.

“It’s pretty short over there,” he said. “Definitely encouraging that that ball kind of got in on me a little bit – it was a cutter – but to know that you don’t have to really crush it to get it out is definitely awesome.

When did the Falcons know they were taking Penix?

Falcons assistant general manager Kyle Smith said there wasn’t one moment when the franchise knew that quarterback Michael Penix Jr. would be their pick.

“There wasn’t one moment,” Smith said. “When you go through that position, that position is so difficult to evaluate. It’s so hard. There are so many variables. Where they go? … What’s their wiring? What’s their makeup? The tape is one thing. What are the coaches thinking? What’s the vision for him? What’s the skill set? There’s so many things.”

The Falcons were high on Penix coming out of the February scouting meetings.

“So, from the beginning, any quarterback that you evaluate, and you put it in a category of will we pull the trigger,” Smith said. “That’s when you are thinking that. Because now it’s like OK, if you put them in that category you would (draft him) now it’s about will you. Is it going to be possible to because those are the unknowns with the draft. We just don’t know.”

The Falcons thought quarterbacks would go 1, 2 and 3, but weren’t sure if someone would trade up to draft the fourth – possibly Penix, J.J. McCarthy or Bo Nix.

“You could and these are all again, hypotheticals of you don’t have anybody,” Smith said. “Oh, wow. I love this quarterback. Well, if the people above you need one, you could offer the world and it’s not happening. You’re not getting up there. You know what I mean? So, yeah, great. I love this. So, you do the best you can to evaluate the guys. Put them into the categories of who you would do. I think we’ve done a good job of that.”

The money at the spot

The Falcons committed $202.6 million to fix their quarterback situation. Cousins has a four-year deal worth up to $180 million, and Penix will have a four-year, $22.6 million deal with the team holding a fifth-year option.

“That’s the position you invest a lot in, look around the league look at some of the (numbers), you guys can do it, and look up the numbers of just some of the top quarterbacks in the league,” Falcons assistant general manager Kyle Smith said. “How much cap is invested into that position. That’s happens around the league. Now, we have two quarterbacks. But in the same ballpark, when you look at the cap numbers.

So, obviously we’re going to have to do when you have a quarterback or two quarterbacks that takes from something else, that’s naturally how it goes.”

Tech wide receiver to appear as guest analyst on local sportscast

Georgia Tech wide receiver Chase Lane will be looking to broaden his broadcasting career this summer.

Lane, a Houston native and Texas A&M transfer, will be appearing as a guest analyst on 11 Alive News at 11:30 p.m. on select Sundays over the summer, starting May 19, as part of the channel’s “Sports Extra” show. Lane is a 6-foot, 193-pound senior who made seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in seven games for the Yellow Jackets in 2023.

Lane has also been hosting a video series, Switchin’ Lanes, on the Tech athletic website.

Ndongo invited to G League Elite Camp

Tech freshman Baye Ndongo was invited to the G League Elite Camp.

A 6-foot-9, 215-pound freshman, Ndongo will be one of 44 participants scrimmaging for two days in Chicago starting Saturday. A select few of those 44 will be invited to take part in the NBA Draft Combine.

Ndongo declared for the draft (but is eligible to return to Tech for the 2024-25 season) in April. He averaged 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game this past season.

Tech’s Lamprecht a Hogan Award finalist

Tech’s Christo Lamprecht, the world’s top-ranked amateur player, has been named one of three finalists for the 2023 Ben Hogan Award.

Determined by voting from the award’s selection committee made up of more than 30 leaders in collegiate, amateur and professional golf, Auburn freshman Jackson Koivun and Vanderbilt junior Gordon Sargent also were named finalists.

Lamprecht sits atop the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is second in the PGA Tour University rankings and sixth in the National Collegiate Golf Ranking System. He won the 2023 Amateur Championship and claimed the silver medal as the low amateur at the 151st Open Championship (T-74). The South African competed in 2024 Masters Tournament, was a member of the International Team at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Cup and competed at the 2023 World Amateur Team Championship, placing eighth.

Last week, Lamprecht was named the winner of the 2024 Byron Nelson Award which is awarded to the nation’s top senior golfer based on four years of accomplishment on the golf course, academic performance and service to the community. He also is a semifinalist for the Fred Haskins Award.

The three Ben Hogan Award winner will be announced May 20 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

Rios settling in

Imagine the lists that must be put together when moving across town.

Now, imagine the lists that must be put together when moving to another country.

Atlanta United Daniel Rios had to do that when he was acquired on loan from Chivas in Mexico on March 20.

In one of his first interviews with the MLS team, Rios talked about the challenges ahead of trying to move his family and all their possessions, while also trying to learn about his new team, coach, teammates and the city.

Six weeks later, Rios said the move is going well.

“Last Friday, it was the first Amazon package that I received so I would say I’m settled now,” he said. “Happy that now I can enjoy and resting in my house after training and be more focused on soccer.”

Rios is adapting well with the team, too. He has two goals and an assist.

“It’s a slow process,” he said. “Obviously, I’m trying to adapt as fast as possible. But it’s not easy. When I miss preseason, I haven’t played with the guys. Not even the reserve guy or the bench guys or the starting guys, but I’m doing my job.”

UGA golfers at NCAAs

Georgia’s women’s golf team came one stroke short of advancing to nationals out of the NCAA’s Auburn regional this past week. Now the men’s team will get a crack at it.

Coach Chris Haack’s Bulldogs will tee it up in the NCAA Austin Regional on Monday on the University of Texas campus. They enter as the No. 4 seed and will compete against No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Arkansas, No. 3 Texas and a total of 13 teams for five spots in the national championship field. The lowest-scoring individual whose team does not advance also will earn a spot in the NCAA Championships, which will be held May 24-29 at The Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California.

“We’ve only played there in a tournament once, but we won it, so we’ve got good vibes as we prepare to head to Austin,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “It’s a great golf course – long, demanding – and requires us to play really solid. We’ve put in the hard work this year, and we’re excited to compete. It’s an incredibly strong field, and we will need to be at our best once we get out there.”

The Bulldogs made the NCAA regionals for the 28th consecutive year and for the 34th time in 35 seasons (excluding the 2020 postseason was cancellation). The Bulldogs have advanced from the out of regionals to the NCAA championships 25 times.

UGA football stars highlight spring commencement ceremony

Georgia football stars Carson Beck, Tate Ratledge and Arian Smith were among 109 UGA athletes who walked in spring commencement ceremonies at Sanford Stadium Fon riday night.

A Jacksonville, Florida, resident and the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, Beck was awarded a degree in sport management. Ratledge, a Rome native and four-year starter on the offensive line, also graduated with a sport management degree. Smith, a wide receiver who hails from Bradley, Florida, received a degree in housing management and policy. Including Jackson Muschamp (consumer economics), a walk-on and the son of assistant coach Will Muschamp, was among 11 football players who picked up diplomas during the spring ceremony,

Four men’s basketball players also graduated: Jabri Abdur-Rahim (communication studies), Frank Anselem-Ibe (sport management), Justin Hill (consumer economics) and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (communication studies). All four have transferred to new schools for their final seasons of college eligibility.

Georgia’s baseball team produced 13 spring graduates and women’s equestrian boasted the most the most degree recipients with 20.

Beck is a fifth-year senior and is considered one of the nation’s favorites to contend for the Heisman Trophy this fall.

Learning from departed teammate

After Chris Sale finished disposing of the Red Sox – pitching six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts Wednesday – he shared how much his old team and teammates meant to him. The Braves already are seeing what an impact Sale can have. He’s still affecting Boston, too.

“I definitely think, from an outside perspective, that (our pitchers) absolutely learned a lot from him,” Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was also very helpful, very spoken about trying to help those young guys. He felt like that was something he could contribute with and it was his duty to do. He lived up to that tremendously. These guys have nothing but good things to say about him.”

Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, who faced Sale at Truist Park, told the AJC the day before:

“I learned a lot from Chris. Chris is a tremendous guy. I was fortunate enough for parts of ‘20, mostly since ‘21. Just what he brings to the table: dedication, going through all his injuries, rehabbing and coming back and seeing what he’s done this year is really good. Just overall him as a person, as a dad, he’s a great guy.”

-Staff writers Chad Bishop, D. Orlando Ledbetter, Ken Sugiura, Chip Towers, Gabriel Burns and Doug Roberson contributed to this report.